On May 2nd 2019, the workshop launching the “Tobacco Tax Reforms to Promote Economic Development in West Africa” project was held in Dakar. The project aims to empower ECOWAS decision-makers with rigorous, independent research to strengthen tobacco control policies in the region.
The event was attended by government officials, researchers, and civil society representatives interested in the issue of tobacco taxation. The opening panel featured speeches by Mr. Salifou Tiemtore (ECOWAS Director of Customs and Taxation), Dr Oumar Ba (Senegalese Ministry of Health), Dr Hana Ross (Principal Research Officer, ETCP), Professor Abdoulaye Diagne (Director of CRES), and Rhiannon McCluskey (Communications Manager, ICTD).
The event proceeded with presentations focusing on:
- Overview of tobacco tax policy in the region, including the differences between the ECOWAS and WAEMU directives, and progress of member states.
- The picture of smoking in the West African region and the case for increased taxes on tobacco for preventing illness and death, as well as reduced economic productivity and growth.
- Global trends in tobacco control, and where ECOWAS countries are in relation, with weaker policies in place and lower cigarette prices
- Presentation of the project, its partners, proposed research questions, and theory of change
- Overview of track and trace systems in the region and their strengths, drawbacks, and pitfalls
The project partners also hosted a roundtable to give attendees the opportunity to provide feedback on the research topics and engagement strategy, in order to further implementation of the ECOWAS directive on tobacco taxation across the region. Some interesting points came out, including:
- The need to engage with WAEMU as well as ECOWAS, due to the inconsistent directives
- The challenge of porous borders, and the need to examine tracing solutions for customs
- The need to take into consideration issues including gender, as many women are small-scale tobacco traders.
- The need to engage with parliamentarians, traditional leaders, and civil society organisations to sensitise them to the issues and solutions available.